The Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarships program was enacted in 2011 and launched in 2013. The program gives individuals and businesses a 50 percent tax credit for contributions made to nonprofit organizations that provide school scholarships to students who meet the income and/or zoning requirements. Learn more about the program, including funding, eligibility and regulations, on this page.
1,366 participating students (2016–17)
78 percent of families with children income-eligible statewide
4 scholarship organizations awarding scholarships (2016–17)
87 participating schools (2016–17)
Average scholarship value: $940 (2016–17)
Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 12 percent
Oklahoma provides tax credits for donations to scholarship-granting organizations (SGOs), nonprofits that coordinate private school scholarships. The allowable tax credit is 50 percent of the amount of contributions made during a taxable year, up to $1,000 for single individuals, $2,000 for married couples and $100,000 for corporations, now including S-Corporations. The program is capped at $5 million, of which $3.5 million is dedicated to private school scholarships with a separate $1.5 million in tax credits available for donations made to organizations that distribute “educational improvement grants” to public schools. If donations exceed the statewide cap in a given year, the Oklahoma Tax Commission will allocate the tax credits to individuals (or corporations) on a pro-rata basis. Any taxpayer who makes a written commitment to contribute the same amount to an SGO for two consecutive years shall have their credit worth 75 percent of their total contribution, as opposed to 50 percent for a single year.
For students without an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), scholarships may be worth up to $5,000, or 80 percent of the average per-pupil expenditure in the assigned public school district, whichever is greater. For students with special needs who attended a public school with an IEP, the scholarship is worth up to $25,000.
Students are eligible if they either live in families with incomes up to 300 percent of the free and reduced-price lunch program ($136,530 for a family of four in 2017–18) or attend or live in the attendance zone of a public school designated as “in need of improvement.” Once a student has received a scholarship, that student and his or her siblings remain eligible until high school graduation or age 21.
Oklahoma’s tax-credit scholarship program could be one of the most generous in the nation because of the high income limit for eligibility, however, the $3.5 million cap on credits severely restricts the number and amount of scholarships that can be awarded. Additionally, the pro-rata distribution of tax credits to donors makes administration difficult for SGOs, as they cannot notify donors of the credit they will receive until the state tax commission receives all credits claimed for the year. Donors are also only allowed a 50 percent tax credit for donations (unless they commit to two years of giving, which raises their credit to 75 percent). The program has a reasonable level of school regulations. Participating schools must provide progress reports to parents, be accredited, follow health and safety codes, and obey nondiscrimination laws. The program has a tremendous opportunity to be one of the nation’s strongest, if the eligibility and overall funding cap are raised or removed entirely and the pro-rata method for distributing tax credits is removed.
Okla. Rev. Stat. § 68-2357.206
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.
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